British cities spending millions to move "unsafe" gravestones!
Local authorities were accused of "municipal vandalism" after it emerged that they are spending millions of pounds to move gravestones that are regarded as a health and safety risk. Tens of thousands of headstones have been flattened or removed across the country because of fears that they could fall on gravediggers or members of the public, according to figures compiled by the Conservatives. Greg Hands, MP for Hammersmith & Fulham, used the Freedom of Information Act to establish that in London 9,463 stones and memorials have been moved over the past three years. If other UK councils have been carrying out the same level of activity, 76,000 headstones will have been moved at a cost of $30 million.
Mr Hands blamed the Health and Safety Executive, which has ordered town halls to put "memorial management arrangements" in place. "People are 4,000 times more likely to be injured by a bendy bus than by a headstone in a graveyard, yet millions of pounds of taxpayers' money are being blown on ripping down headstones," he said.
What do dead voters have to do with coed restrooms?
Court says challenge to 'discrimination' ban failed because dead voters not represented
Maryland's highest court has endorsed Montgomery County's plans for coed restrooms and showers, concluding that a challenge to the new law had to fail because there were not enough signatures on the referendum petitions to represent dead voters. Opponents of the law say they are reviewing their options for continuing their challenge to the extraordinary law that essentially leaves private homes and private clubs as the only locations where a person would not have the "right" to use the restroom or shower room designated for whatever gender that person feels on that given day.
"The court's ruling today is a loss for democracy, a loss for Montgomery County and a loss for common sense," said Dr. Ruth Jacobs, president of Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government.
The organization has been fighting the law since it was adopted by the county board last year in its campaign for "nondiscrimination" against individuals with "gender identity" issues. In that effort, the county failed to provide an exemption from the "nondiscrimination" law for locations of shared nudity, such as restaurant restrooms, community swimming pool shower rooms. Nor are there exemptions for religious organizations.
The opinion from the state Court of Appeals overturned a decision by a judge who found that voters should be allowed to determine the future of the "discrimination" ban." The reasoning by the high court was available only through comments made during the hearing, since the actual court order is a terse two-paragraph demand that the circuit court order be overturned, and the "reasons" would "be stated in an opinion later to be filed."
Circuit Judge Robert A. Greenberg previously concluded Bill 23-07, approved by the county board and signed into law by county executive Isiah Leggett, should be on the November ballot for voters, despite the wishes of Equality Maryland, an activist group for homosexuals, which did not want voters to have their say. But the higher court's ruling left its opponents stunned.
"The court ruled . that the [Board of Elections] should have included 'inactive voters' when calculating the number of signatures that were required to place the issue on the ballot. Months after the deadline for turning in signatures, the court increased the number of valid signatures required from 25,001 signatures to over 27,000," the organization said. Inactive voters are those who have failed to vote in two elections and have not responded to two letters from the government. Most are either dead or have moved out of state.
"We're very disappointed with this court's ruling, which suggests that, in America, every citizen does not have a voice," said Amy Smith, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, which was working with MCRG. "[The] court decision sends a clear message that groups with narrow, extreme political agendas can disenfranchise the voters of an entire county." Jacobs said the citizens' group collected more than the number of signatures set by the county for the referendum.
"Amazingly, Equality Maryland demanded that inactive voters who have likely died or moved out of state be considered in the calculation to determine the number of valid signatures needed. This simply demonstrates that they will go to any lengths to prevent living, breathing county residents from determining public policy," Jacobs said. The MRCG said Bill 23-07 specifically orders no discrimination based on "gender perception" in all "public accommodations."
"The existing non-discrimination code, which Bill 23-07 amends, was written over 20 years ago. The existing non-discrimination code desegregated bathrooms, buses, restaurants and all kinds of public accommodations. Montgomery County points at the 'distinctly private and personal' existing part of the code (which precedes Bill 23-07 by 20 years) and implies that it somehow was written with bathrooms in mind," an analysis by the organization said.
MCRG documented the law defines gender identity as "an individual's actual or perceived gender, including a person's gender-related appearance, expression, image, identity, or behavior, whether or not those gender related characteristics differ from the characteristics customarily associated with the person's assigned sex at birth." "This means that a male appearing as or perceiving he is a female, regardless of his DNA, anatomy, and chromosomal makeup, could gain the legal right to call himself a woman, and use the woman's facility in any public accommodation," the group said.
The group further argued the law could violate the privacy rights of the county's 500,000 women and children, since the county's public accommodations code would be revised to read: "An . agent . of any place of public accommodation in the county must not, with respect to the accommodation: . make any distinction with respect to . race, color, sex, marital status, religious creed, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity in connection with . use of any facility," the organization said.
Jordan Lorence, a senior counsel with the ADF, told WND the next step in the case is being assessed right now. He said the high court allowed the pro-homosexual activists to participate in oral arguments, but there were no arguments presented from those who oppose the special-rights law. Jacobs told WND the right of voters to "act as a check-and-balance on their government has been thwarted." Not only was the number of signatures changed after the fact, a deadline for complaints to be filed about the referendum process apparently was ignored by the court, officials said.
WND previously reported county officials approved the sprawling expansion of their anti-"discrimination" law, sponsored by county council member Duchy Trachtenberg, D-At Large.
County officials have told WND they have interpreted the law to mean that showers and restrooms would be excluded. But Theresa Rickman, a founding MCRG member, argues, "With all due respect, if one accepts the council's assertion that the 'gender identity' law does not cover bathrooms, one would also have to accept that the county's public accommodations code never intended to racially desegregate bathrooms. Race and gender identity are both listed in the same sentence."
WND also has reported on the implementation of a similar plan in Colorado that would encompass the entire state. Critics have accused Gov. Bill Ritter of paying off wealthy homosexual political supporters with his decision to sign the plan into law.
The British Labour Party should dump compassion
Christianity has not done socialism any favours. The Left must embrace progress and winners, not the workshy and the weak -- says Matthew Parris below. He has some interesting points but seems to end up with an attempt to convert the modern British Left to Fascism. Parris is a rather eccentric homosexual conservative
It's time to ask not who should lead the Left in Britain, but where they should be led. Does socialism have a future? Little seems to be coming from the old warhorses of the left-wing intelligentsia these days, so, as the party conference season gets under way today, I thought I'd have a bash myself.
Socialism was never set in stone. In postwar Britain it has been evolving, and a powerful influence on this evolution, especially under the leaderships of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, has been something called "Christian socialism": the belief that the democratic and liberal Left may have something to learn from, and contribute to, New Testament morality: the working out of God's purpose on Earth. After all, didn't Jesus say "sell all that thou hast and give to the poor"?
I'm not suggesting that most politicians on the Left are consciously motivated by biblical injunction, or are even active believers. It's more subliminal. Ours remains a predominantly Christian culture, with Gospel beliefs about fairness, mercy and helping the poor, sick and weak, embedded deeply among our values; as is a tendency to ennoble suffering, and a guilt about wealth.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, all of us have drunk deep at this well. It does not take the subtlest of minds to make a connection between these values, and the socialist political imperative to redistribute wealth, and care for all classes. Both aim, in their outcomes, for humanitarian goals. But this apparent convergence of purposes is a deception. Far from reinforcing true socialism, Christian socialism has ambushed it, subverting its original message and wrecking it as a viable philosophy of government in a market-driven age.
Marx is about power. Christianity is about charity. Marx is about the authority of the collective. Christian liberalism is about the individual conscience. Marx is about justice. Christian humanitarianism is about mercy. The common causes in which Christians, liberals and socialists have tried to reconcile their differences - personal freedom, the redistribution of wealth and the beneficent State - have in Christian hands proved ruinous to the socialist idea: softening its head, picking its pocket, throwing good money after bad, nursing the weak and neglecting the winners, hearkening to disability and turning away from ability, and leaching its energies into a welter of simpering charitable causes. For most of the second half of the 20th century, Western socialism has hovered around the bedside of the victim, the loser and the marginalised. To win, it should have been outdoors, exhorting the strong.
This wheelchair socialism has sucked the Centre Left into spending people's taxes on unproductive causes, and associating itself with failure rather than success. Nietzsche characterised the driving Christian ethic thus: "It lived on distress..." H.L.Mencken added: "God is the immemorial refuge of the incompetent, the helpless, the miserable. They find not only sanctuary in His arms, but also a kind of superiority, soothing to their macerated egos; He will set them above their betters."
It's not for me, here, to defend or attack the Church's absorption with the Prodigal Son rather than his industrious brother, the single lost sheep rather than the rest of the flock; or the way Christianity has made victimhood on the Cross both its mascot and its guiding light. I simply observe that this has absolutely nothing to do with what Marx was trying to say. Socialism was a most unsqueamish creed. If it wished to redistribute wealth, that was not for reasons of mercy but because Marx saw capitalism as a machine doomed to seize up: whereas mankind would fire on all cylinders if labour realised and exercised its potential muscle, and all men pulled together.
A socialist true to these roots, sitting in a modern British Cabinet, and faced with a decision whether to channel Treasury money into (a) scientific research; (b) transport infrastructure; (c) free bus passes for pensioners; or (d) a subsidised national paternity-leave scheme, could weigh socialist arguments for any or all of these purposes; but Christian charity, compassion, or a human-rights-based notion of "fairness" would not be among them.
Properly understood, socialist priorities should never be divorced from considerations of how most effectively to motivate citizens, oil the cogs and drive the pistons. Marx would have been contemptuous of the workshy and mildly uninterested in the disabled. Nor would he have shared Christian socialism's tenderness for the outcast, for individual conscience, and for liberty. Socialism should see little value in personal freedom except in so far as it contributes to the collective good.
Central to socialism is the power of the collective (for the moment, the State): the power to improve the common lot, overriding the individual where necessary. This case for muscular government has always been stronger than we free-market liberals have wanted to acknowledge. Perversely, as socialist movements flounder everywhere, the case for muscular government is actually getting stronger.
This is not an ideological movement I would join, and in a post-industrial age its fixation with organised labour is redundant, but in other ways it remains a perfectly modern if brutal idea that deserves a confident voice in the century ahead.
Not that you would know it from the state of the Labour Party. I'm not in the business of advising Gordon Brown on how to save his skin; that battle is lost. The next election is lost. The election may come sooner than we think - how many more Siobhain McDonaghs wait to fall on their swords?
After that election, a Left Opposition will need to find a voice. It will not hear it from the Manse. It needs to find a crowd. They will not be discovered sleeping rough. It needs to find a class. They will not be the underclass. It needs to find a national purpose. Fairness and Equality will not suffice; Sure Start is not enough.
There's no point trying to out-smooth David Cameron or out-compassion Nick Clegg. Away (the socialist should say) with caring and diversity: let's hear about investment, not subsidy; progress, not equality; about Crossrail (what's the betting Mr Brown cancels it?); about how Britain generates its own power, how we rescue our rail network from impending insolvency, how we get from London to Scotland by train in two hours, and how we stop the planning system throttling every big project; about how we develop a global positioning system that the Americans don't control, how we pay for better highways and uncongested streets with proper road pricing, and how we research and market carbon-free transport, heat and power.
Unless you believe in big, costly, muscular and intrusive government, your voice in all such national causes must be muted. There's a damn good case to be made for strong-arming by the State, and only the Left can make it. This is not a time for Bonhoeffer and playgroups, but for a Left which believes unashamedly in taking command.
State encoragement for religion in France (of all places)
Pope Benedict XVI waded into French politics yesterday, throwing his weight behind a controversial drive by President Sarkozy to put religious faith back into the life of the strictly secular state.
An hour after President Sarkozy and Carla Bruni, his wife, had greeted him at Orly airport, the Pope told the Cabinet and opposition leaders in the Elys‚e Palace that he shared the President's view that politics and religion must be open to one another.
The Pontiff's remarks opened a difficult four-day mission to rekindle enthusiasm for the Roman Catholic faith in one of the world's least godfearing nations. Fewer than five per cent of the historically Roman Catholic French attend services regularly. Fifteen per cent of the French call themselves atheists - a figure that is double the European average. Up to half a million people are, however, expected to turn out for open air masses on the Left Bank of Paris on Saturday, and at the shrine of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes on Sunday.
"At this moment in history when cultures continue to cross paths more frequently, I am firmly convinced that a new reflection on the true meaning and importance of laicite (secularism) is now necessary," said the German-born Pope, who is a far more fluent French speaker than John Paul II, his predecessor. Separation of church and state was necessary, he added, but societies must also be "more aware of the irreplaceable role of religion for the formation of consciences and the contribution which it can bring to ...the creation of a basic ethical consensus."
That thought might be unremarkable elsewhere, but in France it is seen to infringe the law of laicite -- strict secularism -- first established with the bloody purge of the clergy in the 1790s and confirmed in 1905 when the state took over church property. Mr Sarkozy has stirred the wrath of the left and part of the establishment with a drive for what he calls "positive secularism". He used the Pope's first visit to France to hammer the message today. Some opposition leaders even accused him of breaching the law by inviting a religious leader into the Elys‚e palace. They also objected to Mr Sarkozy's airport trip to greet him, the first time that the President has conferred that honour on a visiting leader since taking office in May 2007.
The President, who is twice divorced and a self-described lapsed Catholic, said in his palace welcome to the Pope that it would be "folly to deprive ourselves of religion." Spirituality was "not a danger for democracy, not a danger for secularism," he said. "We do not put anyone above anyone else, but we accept our Christian roots. That does not stop us from doing everything to ensure our Muslim compatriots can live their faith equally with all others."
The argument is explosive for supporters of laicite partly because it tampers with the hard-fought consensus that keeps religious practice out of public life. This includes the 2005 ban on religious dress in state schools, which was mainly meant to stop girls from France's six-million Muslim community covering their heads.
Mr Sarkozy persuaded the Pope, who is an expert in modern French literature, to come to Paris before visiting Lourdes in order to talk to the government and artists, intellectuals and scientists. The trip is difficult because the Vatican sees France as one of the least obedient nations among its senior flock, a group that includes the Americas, Poland, Ireland and the southern European nations. Just over half the French still call themselves Catholic but as divorce, contraception and abortion have become routine, church attendance has shrivelled in recent decades. A majority of French children are born outside marriage.
The Vatican faults its French church leaders for failing to market the faith more vigorously in the face of the state-enforced laicit‚. Monsignor Andr‚ Vingt-Trois, the Archbishop of Paris, denied that the Pope had come to deliver a pep talk and he insisted that "the Church is not a field of ruins". "I do not see him coming to tell us to pull up our socks," he said. "The Church in France is not gravely ill; it is even seriously alive." Cardinal Vingt-Trois conceded that "For the French, the Pope is still John Paul II. ...It has to do with the two men's personalities. Benedict is not a man for the crowds. He is a very private person."
While congregations have dwindled, Church members point to a new activism among younger believers who are focusing on faith rather than tradition. These new activists, however, are uneasy about the conservative, German-born Pontiff who was known as the PanzerKardinal when the he was the Vatican's doctrinal enforcer.
The Pope is visiting to Lourdes as part of the 150th anniversary of apparitions of the Virgin to Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year-old girl. The Catholic Church says the apparitions were genuine but the Pope has ordered officials to draw up new guidelines for bishops around the world concerning the recognition of other reported apparitions. He wants to avoid "excesses and abuses" and wants "scientific, psychological and theological criteria" to be applied to their certification.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.